A Look Back at Events I Do Not Want to Repeat

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History repeats itself, so the saying goes.  But, we can also be smart and learn from history.

On this day, the 10th anniversary of the Nisqually earthquake, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on some national and local events that have happened this past decade that we do not want to repeat.

Repair to viaduct after the quake.

2001 – Terrorist attacks on World Trade Center and Pentagon irrevocably changed how we look at our world and each other.

Locally, on February 28, 2001, the Nisqually earthquake shakes our region for 45 seconds causing overs $1 billion in damage to our region’s buildings and infrastructure including the Alaskan Way viaduct.

2002 – The CFO for Enron is indicted and our electrical rates on the west coast skyrocket.

Closer to home, WSDOT begins review of 76 viaduct replacement options and seven seawall concepts.

One of 76 design concepts.

2003 – U.S. invades Iraq.

After years of study and evaluation, WSDOT reduces the 76 replacement options to five alternatives:  a full rebuild, an aerial, a cut and cover tunnel, bypass-tunnel, and a multi-lane surface option.

2004 – Janet Jackson has a wardrobe malfunction during the half time show of Super Bowl XXXVIII.

WSDOT selects a preferred alternative: the cut and cover tunnel with a new elevated structure as the contingency plan.


 2005 – Hurricane Katrina devastates much of the U.S. Gulf Coast.

WSDOT continues major enviromental analysis on the two chosen alternatives.  Required process costs $ millions.

2006 – As a result of a disrupted terrorist plot, all toiletries are banned from commercial airplanes.

After more years of environmental review, dozens of public hearings and hundreds of engineering hours and analysis, WSDOT publishes the supplemental draft of the EIS – Cut & Cover and Elevated Structure.

2007 – Winter storms cause the Chehalis River to flood many cities in Lewis County, also closing a 20-mile portion of I-5 for several days.

After spending another $1+  million on a special February election, Seattle voters reject both the elevated and cut-and-cover tunnel hybrid alternatives on a ballot measure.

2008 – The Supersonics leave Seattle.  

The State, King County and City of Seattle, informed by input from a blue ribbon Stakeholders’ group, reexamine options for the viaduct’s central waterfront section and decide a bored tunnel may be the best alternative to move people and goods, improve the local economy by preserving businesses and creating new jobs, and to create a great waterfront!

2009 – A-Rod and many of his baseball friends admit to using performance enhancing drugs.  And, speaking of performance enhancements, Sarah Palin resigns to spend more time with her family.

Who kept the pen?

Locally, the Governor, King County Executive, Seattle Mayor and Port of Seattle CEO recommend replacing the viaduct’s central waterfront section with a bored tunnel beneath downtown.   The Seattle City Council unanimously passes an ordinance establishing this as City policy.

2010 – A 7.0 magnitude earthquake occurs in Haiti. With a confirmed death toll of over 230,000 – one of the deadliest on record.

 WSDOT releases the second Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement that analyzes the bored tunnel alternative.  This has taken nearly two more years of required analysis.

2011 – Christchurch NZ experiences a second catastrophic earthquake within months of the first one.

Seattle’s Mayor McGinn says he disagrees with the 10 years of  engineering evaluation, and vetoes a City Ordinance that would permit the City to  cooperate with WSDOT and move the project forward.   He offers no funded alternative.


So that brings us up to today, ten full years since the Nisqually earthquake shook us on February 28, 2001.    I cannot imagine expending more time, wasting more money, or missing this opportunity  by re-evaluating these options all over again.

Surface street option.

The time has come for us to stop the debate and get to work on construction.   We can do this.  We are on the brink of a major moment in Seattle’s history.   We are ready to move forward and build a safe SR 99, improve our Puget Sound habitat, create our waterfront, and energize our economy.

Yes we can get this done  - and thanks to all who have worked so hard to find a solution, we  will get it done!

Picture it!